Searching in Google Scholar

Learn the basics of searching for literature in Google Scholar, as well as some helpful tips and tricks!

  • Transcript

    Google Scholar is a powerful search engine that uses Google's algorithms to search for academic literature.

    While Google Scholar looks and behaves a lot like a regular Google search, there are some key differences. Let's explore some more by doing a search together.

    Let's say we want to know more about the role of pesticides in colony collapse disorder in honeybees. We'll start by searching for "colony collapse disorder AND pesticides."

    Google Scholar shows us a list of over 10,000 articles with these search terms. But because the research that links colony collapse disorder to pesticides is fairly recent, it makes sense to limit our results to newer articles.

    Google Scholar has a date limiter on the left side of the screen for just this purpose. There are quick links to limit results to articles published since a recent year. Or, we can also limit results to articles published between specific dates by clicking on the "custom range" link. I'm going to limit our results to articles published between 2015  and 2020 for this search.

    Now let's take a look at the individual results.

    If you've already configured your Scholar preferences, or if you're on the NC State campus, you will see links to the right of some results that say "Find Text @ NCSU." This link lets you look for a version of the item that's available through an NC State University Libraries subscription.

    For other items, you may see a link that says "PDF" or "HTML". Clicking on those links may take you to a freely available version of the article on the open web. Some search results will have neither the "Find Text @ NCSU" nor "PDF" or "HTML" links. When this happens, try clicking on the article title. Sometimes this will still get you to a version of the article.

    If you find that you're unable to access the article, you can submit a free request through our Tripsaver service. If you need help submitting a request, ask a librarian for help.

    One very useful feature in Google Scholar is the "cited by" links associated with each result. This tells you how many times an article has been cited by other articles that Google Scholar knows about. Not only can this give you an idea of the relative importance of an article, it can help you find additional articles that might be useful to your research.

    Let's return to our earlier search for colony collapse disorder and pesticides. This article, "Bee declines driven by combined stress from parasites, pesticides, and lack of flowers," looks fairly relevant to our research topic, and Google Scholar tells us that over 1,000 articles have cited it. If we click on the cited by link, we can see a list of those articles, some of which may be useful to our research.

    We can also search within this list, by selecting the "search within citing articles" checkbox, and adding search terms to the search bar. So, if I am particularly interested in how these pesticides affect the bees' nervous systems, I can narrow this list to articles that include the phrase "nervous system." Now we see a list of articles that cite the original article, and also mention the phrase "nervous system".

    Google Scholar has other features that we have not covered here. So, if you want to learn more about Google Scholar, or have questions about your research, ask a librarian for help.

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Video added on April 1, 2020


  • Anne Burke: Project Lead
  • Cas Saroza: Storyboard, Script, Video and Audio Production and Editing, Narration


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